Do the Next Right Thing

It’s been awhile, friends.

These last two-plus years have been rough. You all know; you were there, too. Add in the fact that my now-ex-husband decided to detonate our marriage and basically walked off, leaving me to do literally everyfuckingthing re the divorce. And I did it all. I arranged all legal aspects of the divorce itself, emptied/packed up a house with cellar with no help but what I paid for, and moved three states away so I could be home again.

I’m fortunate to have survived the pandemic unscathed, both health-wise and economically. People love me and gave me a place to land when I made the big move, and helped me again when I was able to stop taking up space in their home and move into a place of my own. I’m blessed to be able to afford to save to buy a place of my own again, if housing prices ever become semi-sane again. I’m close to my kids and the rest of my family again.

But it’s all been a struggle. My brain has been soup.

I sit at my desk to do my job. I open a piece of mail and pull out the paper and look at it and decide I have no  idea what to do with this and set it down. I pick up another piece of paper that I set down yesterday because I decided I didn’t know what to do with it, and decide I still don’t know what to do it and set it down someplace else. I click on an email and feel completely unable to deal with it and click out again. And the thing is, I know perfectly well what to do with these things. If I were training someone to do my job, I can give crystal-clear instructions and explanations. But at the same time, I somehow don’t know.

It’s the same around the house, which is not helped by the fact that I work from home (even before the pandemic) so I can never get away from the damn thing and go into another place that has actual cleaning staff. I’m it. I am by nature an organized and tidy person, except that for the last several months – I’m just not.

And this is how I go through my days. I feel like I’m getting the bare minimum done, just enough so that the sky doesn’t come crashing down on me later. And folks, that is not me. That’s not how I roll. Except, apparently, that’s how I roll now.

Nope. I refuse to accept this.

And so, friends, I give you the DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING list. It’s helped a lot. Maybe you need it and it’ll help you too.


  • Drink some water
  • Sleep
  • Five Objects*
  • Put on some actual real clothes, get reacquainted with hair brush and lipstick
  • Have a jammies day
  • Plan a trip
  • Curl up with a book and quality tea
  • Swim laps
  • Make your bed
  • Make the doctor/test/lab appointment/refill the prescription
  • Play a video game
  • Take out the trash
  • Treat yourself to something that will improve your life and enjoy that thing
  • Or don’t spend the money; move it to savings instead and feel virtuous
  • Go kayaking
  • Sink Zero*
  • Take care of the piece of paper/answer the goddamn email already
  • Help someone else out by donating to a worthy cause; even five bucks is five bucks they didn’t have before
  • Go for a hike
  • Write. Book review, flash fiction, a blog post like this one, whatever. Just write it.
  • Cook a healthful** meal, and make enough for two meals
  • Maybe it’s Treat Day – have some ice cream
  • Finalize a draft post and publish it
  • Movie or binge-watch
  • Put on music and dance around

You will note my phone, social media, and the news make no appearance here. That’s intentional! The world is on fire right now and there’s not a damn thing I can personally do about it, beyond voting and donating and being nice to other people. Ostriches stick their heads in the sand for good reason. Protect yourself. Be an ostrich.

Many things on this list contradict other things. That’s because the next right thing can be different at any moment. What thing will help me feel the opposite of whatever negative way I’m feeling right now? Am I overwhelmed and needing to check out, or am I overwhelmed and needing to check something off a to-do list? Beyond whatever depressive/scattered/anxious instinct might be telling me to do right now, what thing will do the most actual good for my body and my psyche? That’s the next right thing. (Although “drink some water” is pretty much always helpful.)

Today, this was the Next Right Thing. Maybe tomorrow it will be Sink Zero. Or not. (Author photo)

*Five Objects and Sink Zero are concepts I’m shamelessly kyping from Rachel Hoffman’s excellent They are:

Five Objects: Immediate environment is bothersome. Identify five objects that are out of place and put them where they belong. Just five. It’ll take literally three minutes and it will definitely help. (If you’re badly enough off that you need to count a pair of shoes as two objects, that’s fine. Whatever gets you there right now.)

Sink Zero: Getting to zero dirty dishes in the sink. Maybe they’ve piled up for three days, or maybe there’s only a coffee cup and two forks in there. Either way.

**I know “eat something healthy” has become standard usage, but it’s grammatically incorrect and drives me crazy and you can’t make me use it. Of course I eat healthy food; I’m not gonna eat diseased food (and let’s add “detox the fridge” to the above list). Eating healthful food is eating food that promotes good health.

If you’re reading this, that means at some point writing this post was my Next Right Thing and it made me feel better, and at another point editing and finalizing and publishing it was my Next Right Thing, and that also made me feel better.

And that’s my do the next right thing strategy. It’s been helping me a lot. I hope it helps you, too. We’re all in this together.

2020 Reading Challenge (I’m Gonna Do It This Time!)

Well, I mostly completed my 2017 Reading Challenge. I ran out of steam toward the end of that year, but I’ve recently picked up a few 2017 stragglers, including The Alchemist and Rebecca. Reviews to come. 2018 and 2019 were off writing years for me.

My Goodreads Year in Books for 2019 impressed even me, at 68 books for the year, and it’s even more impressive when you consider that I don’t count rereads (I’ve gobbled up a few Miss Marples and made it through M in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series) and I’m sure I missed several that I read on my husband’s library account. But as I look back on it, I was reading the same old stuff I always read. I love reading challenges because they take me to new places.

2020, let’s do this! And credit where it’s due, this is not my own list; I largely stole it from PopSugar. And to be further upfront, I cheat sometimes and combine categories.

Photo: ninocare/Pixabay

(1) A book with a bird on the cover: The Bird King, a fantasy novel by G. Willow Wilson. Take a second and Google the cover. It’s gorgeous.

(2) A bildungsroman: I’m going to add to my Literature-With-a-Capital-L cred as well and read Great Expectations. I’ve read Bleak House, and I liked it, but I think I have to like at least two Dickens books before I can claim to be one of those people who likes Dickens.

(3) A book that passes the Bechdel test: Feminist me loves the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test originated in 1985 with Alison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, purportedly inspired by Virginia Woolf’s essay “A Room of One’s Own” in which Woolf observed that women always appear in books and cinema solely as they are related to men. The Bechdel rule for fiction is simple: there have to be at least two women, who have to have at least one conversation with each other, that isn’t about a man. Books like this aren’t so hard to find these days, but it’s still difficult for movies.

I’m going with My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

(4) A book on a subject I know nothing about AND (5) a book with flora or fauna in the author’s name: I may regret this choice.

My maternal grandmother was a teacher through and through, even beyond her dying day. She willed her body to the university medical school where I was employed when she died, to be used for teaching purposes. One of my job duties, in the Public Relations and Development area of the Dean’s office, was to give tours of the facility to various Very Important People, of which the anatomy and pathology teaching laboratories were a high point. The lab staff were always considerate and made sure my grandma was nowhere to be seen if they knew I was coming. It was strange and unsettling, and they were very kind to me about it.

I have a morbid interest in true crime and forensic science. So, my weirdo pick here is Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. Blurbs say it is not only educational, but hilarious and “oddly uplifting.” I fervently hope so.

(6) A book with a robot/AI/cyborg character AND (27) a book set in a city that has hosted the Olympics: More sci-fi! I’m reading Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. It’s a retelling of Cinderella featuring Cinder the cyborg, set in Beijing. More cover love.

(7) A book with only words on the cover, no graphics or images: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. This looks like a great trashy read, with the plus of a different culture.

(8) A book with one of the deadly sins in the title: Riffing on pride, I’ve picked Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. In all these years, I’ve never read that one. I love satire when it’s done well.

Photo: thommas68/Pixabay

(9) A book with gold, silver, or bronze in the title: I loved Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash, so now I’m finally going to pick up Quicksilver. See, I could smoosh another twofer here and also tick off (12) A 2019 award winner by reading Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver instead, which won the 2019 Locus award for fantasy and also sounds like it’s channeling Rumpelstiltskin. But I’ve been meaning to read Quicksilver anyway, and I could use a cyberpunk fix, so I’m going to read both of them.

(–) A book with a pun in the title: Everything I found online sounded stupid. Skipping this one.

(10) A book with three words in the title: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Described as the anti-Jane Eyre, which sounds delicious.

(11) A book about a world leader: Let’s spice things up with Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson.

(13) A book with the same name as a movie/TV show but that is not related to it: More sci-fi with Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter. I watch very little TV and have no idea what show that title belongs to.

(14) A book about or including social media: Ah yes, the bane of modern culture (says the woman who tweets and Facebooks her blog posts). Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation by Andrew Marantz looks interesting.

(15) A book with a book on the cover: I just downloaded Laurie R. King’s Touchstone, one of her novels that is not about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. I won’t get to it until after the New Year, so it’s not cheating.

(16) A medical thriller: Sorry; I’ve never cared for either Robin Cook or Michael Crichton, and I got burned out on Patricia Cornwell some time back. I’m going to feed my forensic and true crime addiction with more non-fiction, with Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.

(17) A book with a made-up language: Lord of the Rings is the obvious one, because who doesn’t want to speak Elvish, but that would be a re-read for the umpteenth time. My pick is Strange the Dreamer, a YA fantasy by Laini Taylor.

(18) A book set in a country that starts with C: Our Man in Havana, the classic spy thriller by Graham Greene.

(19) A book with a title that caught my attention AND (24) a book by a trans/non-binary author: How friggin’ awesome is the title An Unkindness of Ghosts? Is the unkindness a deed, like a bunch of ghost juvenile delinquents bullying somebody? Or is it the collective name for a group of ghosts, like a murmuration of starlings or a shiver of sharks? I am intrigued. Nominated for several awards, it ticks off the sci-fi, horror, LGBTQ, and dystopia boxes.

(20) An anthology: Two choices here. There’s Glimpses by various authors, or Apothecary, by Thomas Fay, both fantasy short story collections. Both are FREE through the Amazon Kindle app right now as I write this in the wee hours of December 29 (hi, insomnia!); I just snagged them both. The only thing better than books is free books. And sleep.

(21) A book published during my birth month: Tattered paperback copies of Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, published in November 1979, were passed around when I was in high school, but I somehow never read it. Time to amend that.

(22) A book by or about a woman in STEM: Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor, a picture biography suitable for kids but evidently adored by adults too, looks delightful.

(23) A book published in 2020: A story of migrants fleeing peril and poverty to seek safety and security in America (*snerk*), Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt looks to be heartbreaking.

(25) A book with a great first line: “I am an invisible man.” I’ve been on the waiting list for The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and it should be my turn in the next couple of weeks.

quote-i-am-an-invisible-man-i-am-a-man-of-substance-of-flesh-and-bone-fiber-and-liquids-and-i-might-ralph-ellison-57506 (1)

(26) A book about a book club: I can’t decide between The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Beatriz Rivera’s Playing With Light. I’ll surprise you.

(28) A book with an upside-down image on the cover: I found a lot of these with birds on them, interestingly enough, but I’d already picked my bird book. Then I stumbled upon the cover of Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner.

Many years ago I was dating, for several months, a guy who was openly losing his mind about turning 40. I’d already done it and assured him it was no big deal, but nooOOoo, don’t listen to me. He souped up the Mustang he already owned and painted it bright red, and not long afterward he ghosted me. My suspicions were confirmed a few weeks later when I saw a cute little blonde driving said Mustang around town. I ran into him a few years ago; he was paunchy, most of his hair was gone, and there was no cute little blonde to be seen (hi, Neil! Yes, you’re a walking cliche). And I am happy to report that, in shocking defiance of the gods and the odds, I happened to be dressed to the nines, lookin’ fine, with a handsome and attentive man on my arm. Bite me, Neil.

The book is described as witty, crude, and midlife-crisis focused. I hope it’s as funny as Neil was in retrospect.

(29) A book with a map: As a kid on road trips, I frequently overheard one adult saying to another about me: “Why has she been reading the road map for the last two hours?” “Well. She is a strange child sometimes.” I love maps, I decorate with them and have a favorite map head scarf, so I could happily read an atlas. But I’ve picked Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, and I have just one question: WHY HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF THIS DELIGHTFUL-SOUNDING BIT OF CHILDREN’S METAFICTION THAT’S AS OLD AS I AM BEFORE NOW?

(30) A book recommended by a favorite online book club/chat group/whatever: It’s a super-secret online book group formed for super-secret reasons with super-secret membership, but I can tell you the book is Lisa See’s The Island of Sea Women. I can also tell you it’s taken me months to work my way up to #27 on the wait list at my library.

I think that’s enough structure. Happy Bookish New Year!

Breathing While Black (Twofer Book Review)

I happened across both of these books when I read a news article about the South Carolina police association trying to have both books removed as student summer reading choices. Um, hello. I would hope the cops know that the quickest way to get a kid to do something is to tell them they can’t. Oh, you did know that? Good job, then. Except I don’t think that’s what happened here. Now, I pretty much never agree with censorship, and what we have here looks an awful lot like Fahrenheit 451 meets the Third Reich, from an institution that is historically sucky at holding itself accountable. And I’m not saying all cops are bad cops. But I’d ask: If a good cop covers for a bad cop, is he still a good cop?

The bigger problem is it’s not just cops, not in this age of #BarbecueBecky and #CouponCarl and #PoolPatrolPaul and-and-and, the list goes on, ad nauseum.

The thing to remember is that America is rife with incidents of white people calling police on black people for everyday activities. Breathing While Black. And yes, this is hostile, given relations between law enforcement and people of color in America, and how horrifically often such incidents escalate into loss of life at the hands of police. It’s nothing less than white people trying to weaponize police in support of their own bigotry.

Back to the books. First, it’s imperative I point out that neither book demonizes cops; both books include a police officer as something of a hero figure, which highlights the depth of the problem and provides balance. Second, I wonder how it didn’t occur to anyone involved in this challenge to have some South Carolina police representatives actually read the books, then hold town-hall type events or offer to participate in classroom discussions. You know, interact with their communities. Educate. Try to make things better.

Hopefully the kids did like I did and immediately got copies and read them. Banned books generally shoot straight to the top of my TBR list. Both of these titles absolutely belong in school reading curricula, and I don’t care what the cops have to say about it.

On to the reviews.


The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a stellar (heh…the protagonist’s name is Starr) story about a young girl who’s life is plenty complicated enough, thank you, with the two worlds she lives in and keeps meticulously separated, careful not to be the “sassy black girl” at her mostly-white prep school and careful not to sound “too white” when kicking with her homies. Then comes the night she is the passenger witness to a traffic-stop killing, white cop vs black kid. And it’s not enough that she must deal with seeing her friend murdered in front of her and being held at gunpoint herself, for the crime of Riding in a Car While Black; things are further complicated by her cop uncle and her white boyfriend. Starr’s universe explodes as she finds herself in national headlines, wrangling the monumental contradictions of right vs wrong, justifiable fear vs speaking out for justice, black vs white.

Excellent characterizations and great pacing–I couldn’t put it down. A deeply emotional story told without being maudlin.


All American BoysAll American Boys by Jason Reynolds

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this after reading The Hate U Give, and I might have liked it more if I’d read it first. In comparison this book reads as slightly dumbed down, less nuanced, which seems a bit unfair. It’s still a compelling story, though, about a black teenager who is brutally beaten by a white cop for the crime of Shopping While Black. The POV alternates between Rashad, as he grapples with a parent who also assumes the worst of him and the enormity of being a national cause and a trending hashtag, and Quinn, the white teenager who witnessed the beating and must now struggle with the realization that a hero from his childhood is the accused cop. Both boys learn first-hand that racism and police brutality are alive and well in America long after MLK and Affirmative Action. As each of them sees that they each have the ability to write their own entries into the history books — what will they write?

Both books are easy YA reads with a lot of depth that adults can also enjoy. Both are timely and important.

Bookshelves for both: current-social-events, racism, ya, banned-and-challenged

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Me and Manny McMansplainer

I never gave all that much thought to mansplaining until recently. I’d picked up on the word and knew what it meant but that was about it. I couldn’t even remember running into it all that much with the notable exception of a then-husband (who shortly became an ex-husband) telling me that giving birth can’t possibly hurt all that much and I should stop making a big deal out of it. But we didn’t even have the term “mansplain” back then. He was just a horse’s ass.

Until Manny McMansplainer came to work for me a few weeks ago, not hired by me but under my direction and my training, in what is now a two-person office. You have no idea how much I wish for a third person now, as both a foil and a witness.

And just in case you’ve been living in a cave (which sounds marvellous and I’m jealous), or you pay zero attention to the latest buzzwords (very sensible), mansplaining is when a man explains something to a woman in a manner that is condescending, patronizing, and often about which she knows as much or more than he does. Examples include a man telling a woman something about her own body or experiences as a woman, or explaining a basic principle of motion to a woman, because a pretty little thing like her would certainly know nothing about that, no matter that the pretty little thing has a doctorate in astrophysics.



HIM (THE NEWBIE): We can hook up this other computer and get it working. I’ll go ahead and do that for you.

ME (THE OFFICE MANAGER): We can’t hook it up yet. We need another switch. I’ve ordered one.

HIM: There’s one in that spare box of cables and stuff.

ME: That’s a router. I’ve discussed it with I.T. and have ordered a switch.

HIM: [without warning, unplugs my network thus zapping my unsaved spreadsheet out of existence, rummages through the McGuyver box, bangs around under my desk, unplugging things and plugging them in again, for several minutes]

ME: [sits back from my desk, arms folded tightly across my chest, sipping tea, tapping my foot, watching in amused and  judgmental silence]

HIM: [backs out from under my desk, bumping his head hard enough that I hope for blood]: Huh. This isn’t a switch. It’s a router. We need a switch.

ME: Yes. I know.

HIM: Well. Huh.

ME: Fucking wanker. [I didn’t actually say that.]


ME: Please feed documents in the scanner in groups of no more than 10. There’s a glitch in the FTP that means I often have to manually correct dozens of them after they’re scanned in. Feeding small batches is a good workaround for that.

HIM: But the paper feeder takes up to 50 pages.

ME: The paper feeder isn’t the issue. The FTP is the issue. It glitches with large batches of papers and takes me a lot of time to fix manually. I need papers scanned in bunches of 10 so it doesn’t do that.


ME: File Transfer Protocol. If papers are scanned in smaller batches it’s less likely to glitch and I spend much less time making manual corrections.

HIM: Well, I don’t see why. The paper feeder takes 50. [puts a bonkzillion papers in feeder and presses the start button]

ME: [presses the cancel button and pulls papers out] I. Said. Scan. Them. In. Batches. Of. Ten. That’s how I want it done.

HIM: [sulks rest of day]

ME: What are you, six? [Okay, I didn’t really say that either]


HIM: This subpoena came back from skip trace asking you if we can serve this guy at this local address if the resident has power of attorney, but the guy actually lives in another state.

ME: I don’t believe we can. Please email in-house counsel and explain the problem, see what he says.

HIM: Well, I think we can serve it.

ME: Why do you believe that?

HIM: Well, whenever service members are deployed–deployed is when you’re sent from your home base to actual action–

ME: I know what deployed means.

HIM: Oh, good. They have to sign a power of attorney before they ship out.

ME: Okay.

HIM: And part of my job in the Army was to pull power of attorney from soldiers’ files and transmit then to JAG. JAG is the legal department.

ME: I know what JAG is.

HIM: [in aren’t-you-a-clever-girl tone] Excellent!

ME: And?

HIM: That’s what I did.

ME: One issue we have here is venue. Generally collections cases have to be filed in the jurisdiction where the defendant lives. If this guy doesn’t live in this state, the plaintiff’s attorney may have to dismiss the case and refile it in the proper court.

HIM: Well, if he’s in the military, he might not live where his home of record is.

ME: Correct. Serving someone on active duty has special procedures. My process servers have good relationships with the base legal departments. But we don’t even know if this defendant is in the military, and we don’t know what powers this POA grants.

HIM: Power of attorney gives the person power to do anything the person themselves could do. We can serve this on the POA.

ME : Of course. Please, allow me to bow down to your superior expertise, since you used to pull documents out of a drawer and mail them somewhere else and now you’ve worked here for five whole weeks.

[Okay, that’s something else I didn’t really say]

ME: [dead stare]

ME: Well, Mr. Manny McMansplainer. I’ve been a certified paralegal for more than 20 years. I’ve drawn up and worked extensively with estate planning and powers of attorney, including general ones, durable ones, durable general ones, health care ones, limited ones, special ones, and springing ones. I’ve worked on contracts and on breach of contract and money damages cases, both plaintiff and defense. I’ve arranged for service of process for hundreds of cases and ascertained it was done correctly. I’m well-versed in the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, and state law on process service. I’ve run this branch office of our litigation services company by myself, with glowing reviews, for several years. And with all that, I am still not expert to make the call on this situation. It needs to be handled by someone who’s actually licensed to practice law. Please kick it up to in-house counsel.

HIM: Fine.

ME: I hate you.

[Okay, I didn’t actually say that either. But I thought it REALLY REALLY REALLY LOUD.]


And then there’s general rudeness, which may be misogyny or may be simple douchiness but given his other propensities, I’m going with more mansplaining. He talks over me when I’m conversing with one of my process servers. When I’m on the phone with someone, he comes over and leans in close to the mouthpiece and starts talking very loudly, interjecting himself into a conversation he could only hear one side of.

I have not simply put up with it. I have been assertive and direct. “Please don’t do that” and “Actually, that’s not correct” and “I was talking, and I’m going to finish what I was saying” do not penetrate beyond the moment.

My dutiful and devoted son, Monster, has promised that in the event I snap , he will establish a GoFundMe for my legal defense.

Please be generous, dear readers.

I love this mansplaining skit with Hillary Clinton and Jimmy Kimmel. Hillary, you have a fun, sharp sense of humor and I wonder if you’d have appealed more if you’d let it show more. Really. You should smile more, hon.


(In case the video doesn’t stay embedded, which happens to me all the time in WordPress, here’s the link.)

Every Night’s a Saturday Night by Bobby Keys (Book Review)

Every Night's A Saturday Night: The Rock 'n' Roll Life of Legendary Sax Man Bobby KeysEvery Night’s A Saturday Night: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Life of Legendary Sax Man Bobby Keys by Bobby Keys

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: americana, memoir, party-like-a-rock-star, non-fiction

Don’t expect any deep insights, but this is still a very enjoyable read, the story of a rock and roll life peopled by everybody who was anybody in the heyday of rock n roll, the British Invasion, and beyond. Awesome stories, like first meeting Keith Moon as he was chasing his chauffeur with a hovercraft. Phil Spector is a prick – who knew? Hook a drive into Keith Richards’ breakfast as he eats by the fairway, and he will shoot your golf ball – who knew? There are some substance-hazed lapses in memory, like his estimation of how long he lived with George Harrison: “…a month or so. Several weeks anyway, probably a month. More than a week, less than a year.” It’s okay, though, because the entire book reads like it was dictated and transcribed, so you get Bobby Keys himself, like you’re sitting around drinking beers and shooting the shit, an utterly conversational voice that brings everything to life.

Keys pulls off being self-effacing, acknowledging that his success was due in large part to being in the right place at the right time over and over again, while at the same time being able to blow his own horn – heh – for his accomplishments. And you only have to listen to the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” or “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” or John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” to know the man had a gift. A ten-year-old kid happened to hear Buddy Holly playing on the back of a cotton truck in Lubbock, Texas, and the saxophone was the only instrument left at school when he wanted to learn to play something, anything, just to be a part of that music, and — something wonderful happened.

I felt a bit let down at the lack of deep feeling beyond that which Bobby clearly had for the music. He refers more than once to “my wife at the time” or “my kid” but goes no further into those personal relationships, and talks about being a heroin-infused mess but offers no real insight. Just, he was a junkie for a while, and now he’s not. I suppose I can understand the desire for privacy but it did leave me wanting more. Still, fair enough. This book is about the music, and making the music, and high times that were had while making the music. It’s a rollicking tale of a rollicking life that’s got one hell of a soundtrack, from his earliest solos on Dion and Elvis recordings through his career with the Stones and beyond.

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In a Pickle (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

The young woman beams nervously, slides her jacket down her arms to hang it over the back of the chair. Caroline’s smile vanishes, her face turning into a study of downward angles. “I’m afraid the interview won’t be necessary after all,” she says, and stalks out of the room.

Becca turns her sympathetic gaze to the fresh-faced hopeful. “Sorry, but it’s your tattoo, Caroline hates tattoos, won’t have them at the office at all, won’t hire anyone with a tattoo, period.”

“Well, who wants to work for a picklepuss like that anyway,” the girl snaps back.

Photo: chezbeate

Each week, Ivy at Uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup and blog hop. This week’s vignette from The Life and Times of Jane Doe is in response to the cue “pickle.” Fun sixes from other writers are at the link. Come join us! It’s fun!

That’s OK, I’ll Just Sleep When I’m Dead

I have been awake since 1:27 a.m. Many times there is no good reason for this stupid insomnia, but this time there was a specific reason: It’s too friggin’ hot in my house to sleep. It doesn’t often get into the 80’s in the Puget Sound area, so very few homes have air conditioning, which is fine because you usually don’t need it. Fresh air and fans will usually do the trick. The problem here is that when we first looked at moving in to the place we’re now renting, we were told several things were going to be fixed, among them the small and very rickety balcony overlooking the backyard.

We listened to those things we were told, because the house is a gorgeous 1910 number, with lots of character, and probably a ghost, and we wanted to believe these things would be fixed, and because we were idiots.

We were midway through last summer’s heat wave (six or seven days in the 80’s) when we figured out that even if we weren’t allowed to use the balcony, we could still open the door leading to it and get a lovely draft through the place, cooling it off enough to actually get some sleep. When Frank*, the guy who runs the property management company that oversees our place, saw that door open, he immediately accused me of breaking the lock. I am a short, round, rather matronly-looking sort of woman of a certain age. Do I seriously look like I know how to break deadbolt locks? Your doofus of an assistant told you he locked it, but he did not. The guy paints door hinges, okay? Not that competent. All I had to do was turn the doorknob.

Anyway, almost a year after we moved in, I made a hundred-dollar bet with the Tominator that the deck will never be repaired, at least not at a time when it will actually benefit us. Sure enough, because that’s how magic works, right after we shook on it, after a year of telling us over and over that “it’s scheduled to be done soon,” Frank finally started working on the deck. Although he did tear down the railing and rip up the boards that constitute what actually makes it a balcony, the major part of this seems to have been locking the deadbolt, since somehow I manage to look clever enough to be a B&E expert while at the same time looking stupid enough to try to use a balcony that has no railings and no floor. Now we can’t  even open the door to get the nice draft. It was 82 degrees here yesterday. My bedroom is an oven, and I can’t sleep in an oven, even right next to an open window with two fans blowing on me. I’m pissed.

I still plan on winning the bet, though, since Frank has done absolutely nothing else for a good three weeks now. 

So, to occupy the hours that are always so endless during the agony of a tired but sleepless night, I have come up with a mathematical formula to figure out when our balcony will be usable again and at what point I can collect my benjamin from the Tominator.

Frank told us the deck would be finished with two weeks of solid work. He has also explained that he does not do “that kind of work” on Fridays, for whatever reason, and he doesn’t do any work on weekends. That leaves 4 days in a week when he will do “that kind of work” or any kind of work. In Frank language, that’s 8 days of actually doing something. Sounds good, right? Eight days, that’s nothing, right?


As we have seen over the last year, he will also not work on the deck if there is even the slightest chance it will rain. If there is a 5% chance that it might sprinkle 87 drops of rain, he won’t do so much as measure a two by four. He claims that you can’t do construction-type work in the rain, and I call bullshit. This is the Pacific Northwest, the Puget Sound. If he’s right, how in the hell did anything ever get built here at all, since ever? But his contention does give me another number to work with. This area gets measurable rainfall 155 days out of the year, which simplifies to 31/73, or about 3 days out of each week. So that’s three more days when Frank is guaranteed to not show up to get anything done on this project.

But this is where the math gets tricky, and maybe I’m being unfair. It’s entirely possible that those three rainy days could be the same three days of Frank’s automatic long weekend. I’m pretty sure there’s an equation for that. I probably learned it in my sadistics –er, my statistics class that I hated. Well no, it’s not accurate to say I learned it. Let’s say it was probably covered, and all I took away was the vague impression that I should have learned it. I spent much of my time during that class chanting my “All I need’s a 2.0, all I need’s a 2.0…” mantra and just keeping my head down. I pulled off a 2.5 and said, “Booyah!” and fist-bumped the sky.

20170607_053843 (1)
This rose bush beautifies this post and factors in. Stick with me.

The point is, while I’m sure it’s possible to combine those two probabilities to come up with a fairly accurate number to work with, I don’t know how to do it and I don’t care enough to remedy that. Frankly, Frank does not deserve that kind of effort or credit from me. He did show up Monday long enough to re-key the knob and deadbolt locks to our basement/laundry area so our key would work in both of them instead of just one, and now our key works in neither of them. That’s a debit in the Home Repair ledger. We are not able to push our hallway bookcase flush with the wall because we need to be able to string hair dryer and beard trimmer and straightening iron cords from the bathroom across the hall to the outlet behind said bookcase, because our bathroom outlet doesn’t work, and hasn’t worked since about a week after we moved in, last June. He finally came around to look at it in February. It still doesn’t work, and now there’s an ugly strip of wall missing that his “electrician” left that way and nobody has fixed, for another net loss in the Home Repair ledger. The linoleum around the shower has still not been fixed, the central heating unit still doesn’t work, and there are no screens on about half the windows so even when we can get a nice breeze on hot days, we also get a crapton of bugs, and I’m still waiting for a bird to fly in here and give me heart palpitations and shit on the carpet and cause Lilly the Fat Dog to destroy everything trying to get it because she is a golden retriever and, therefore, a bird dog.  We were also told our yard was going to be leveled and re-sodded, way back when. Ha ha ha. The Tominator, just yesterday, dug a hole in an obscure place and used the dirt to fill in the worst hole in the pathway to the gate, the hole that has been trying to break my ankle on a daily basis since I’ve lived here.

Basically, we live here in self-defense mode, and if it’s something small yet annoying enough, we just fix it ourselves. Because, you know, we’d like to have it fixed. And it’s such a cool house. And ghosts.

The point is, Frank gets no slack from me. Three-day-weekend no-deck-working-on moratoriums plus no work on rainy days has us down to 1 day a week when he might conceivably work on making our home somewhat like we were told it was going to be when we moved in. One day per week times 8 = we can use our balcony in another 8 weeks. Right? 

But we’re not there yet!  More math! We still have to figure in the fact that our house is on the bottom of the priority list when it comes to anything besides collecting rent, so if someone in another of this company’s houses has a wobbly shelf in the back of the closet, that will be fixed before our front door that won’t close. Then we also have to account for illness, hangovers, sick kids and other family emergencies, vacations, flat tires, a nationwide embargo on eightpenny nails, dogs that eat homework, TSA orange alert days, flash flood watches, and days when he just doesn’t fucking feel like doing it, which I am guessing is all of them.

There is a small mitigation factor.  Frank has ruled that we have to keep the space beneath the balcony clear for his tools and supplies, but I say bullshit to that, too. That’s where our huge pots of roses (that’s what the picture is for!) and peonies and foxglove live, and I’m not displacing them to keep clear a workspace that is never worked in. If me not keeping the space clear means he’ll magically show up to work and be annoyed with us and we have to drag our flora back out of the way, that’s fine. At least it got him here.

I won’t bore you with any more mathematical details and besides, it’s getting enormously complicated, such that only I, with my 2.5-in-statistics mathematics expertise, can understand. Let’s just skip right to the solution. I showed my work.*

animationoptions dot com


My final calculations tell me our balcony will be usable on September 27, 2053.

I fully expect to be dead by then, which means I won’t even be able to collect my $100 from the Tominator.


*His name really isn’t Frank. I’ve changed it to protect his identity, and also because his name is really Brian, and I’ve liked virtually all of the Brians I’ve known in my life, but I can’t recall a single man named Frank I’ve admired, including the one I dated very briefly and dumped for being a jerk, but not before he pointed out to me that douchebags in movies always seem to be named Frank. He’s right.

**OK, not really. That picture is from But it looks just like my work.

Dear Gluten, and Other Letters

Dear Gluten,

Look, I’m not one of the very relatively few who really really do have celiac disease, nor am I one of those bandwagoners who jumps on every food fad there is, no matter how terrible it tastes. But I still don’t understand why you find it necessary to promote your absence (“a gluten-free food!”) on the package of figs I just bought. Anybody with any sense knows figs are fruit, not a cereal grain.  But I am given to understand you only do this in America. Why? Do you think Americans are stupid or something?

Respectfully yours,

A Concerned Consumer


Dear Concerned Consumer,

Of course I think Americans are stupid. Look who you just elected as your president.




Dear Annoying Bus Passenger,

Why do you jump to the front of the line to get on the bus first, when you don’t know if the bus even goes where you want, and you don’t know how much the fare is and you have no idea where your small bills and your change are, leaving the rest of us shivering and dripping in the rain and wind while you figure out north from south with the driver and search all your pockets and bags for your money and still don’t have the right fare?


A Prepared Commuter Who Knows Where She’s Going and Must Be On Time



Reread your own letter. You answered your own question. I’m here in one place where I don’t know where I am, trying to get to another place where I still won’t know where I am. I’m anxious. I’m afraid.  What if it costs too much?  What if I’m at the completely wrong stop on the wrong street at the wrong end of town?  What if the driver treats me like an idiot and is mean to me? What if I completely screw it up and end up in Spokane? This is an ordeal, and I can’t wait. I’m dying here. I need to just get it over with. Why are you making it worse for me? Look, these buses don’t make change, so I’ll give you this twenty if you’ll pay my $3.25 fare with your special little bus card, and you can have Starbucks on me. I’m sorry.


Shirley from Toledo


Dear Computer Industry,

What is up with toner.

We live in a society where we can send a bonkjillion bits of information completely around the world in seconds, land a spacecraft on a rock in the middle of outer space, and print working cars, for crying out loud. Why can you not come up with a toner cartridge that doesn’t get black shit all over everything?

I first asked this question more than 30 years ago, when you and some Xerox toner ruined my fabulous new white pencil skirt that made me look like Marilyn Monroe from the back if you squinted your eyes right.  I have neither forgotten nor forgiven the loss of that skirt.

I’m still waiting for an answer.

Yours in frustration.


Dear Frustrated,

Yeah, we don’t get it either. That and the common cold.

-Matt in I.T.





And Now I Am One

I’ve always been scornful of those bathroom phone people. You’ve heard them, blathering away in the next stall. I’ve always laughed at them a little as I tinkled away merrily, fastidiously avoiding hand-to-face activities. I laughed at the end of the conversations I could hear, and tried to imagine the gist of the whole thing to use as writing exercises, and would think loftily that you’ll never catch me admitting to the Sprint guy that I need a new phone because I dropped mine in the toilet. Not to mention the types of germs…well, I said I wasn’t going to mention it, so I won’t.

Except now I’m one of them.

It’s a lifestyle thing, I now realize. At least for me. My new job has a strict no-phones-at-the-desk rule, because all day long I have people’s health care information splayed across two monitors, and I just might be dumb enough to accidentally enter my phone’s security code and then accidentally push the camera button and then accidentally take a picture of some woman’s Social Security number and her bill for chlamydia treatment, and then accidentally tweet it. I know I am not that dumb, but a lot of things have happened lately that I’d have thought impossible, so there it is. The only time I can quick-check email and text messages and see what’s up with my tribe is on my breaks.

I have become a toilet texter.

It’s hilarious.

It’s still better, though, because I finally figured out how, post-election, I can stand to be on Facebook once again. I know, I know, a woman’s place is in the resistance, and I need to be aware of what’s going on, and write to my representatives and call my representatives, and I would have been all over the Women’s March if I hadn’t ruined my knees and feet with decades of awesome shoes.

Shoes like these. Beautiful, fabulous shoes. I used to live in gorgeous shoes like these, and I ruined my feet, and it was totally worth it. Photo courtesy of rhythmuswege/Pixabay.

I am proud to know a dozen women who did march, and I’m very much aware that they marched for me as well as for them, they marched for every woman in this country, every woman in the world, and they are amazing and I love them for it. I’m still sorry I couldn’t do it too. That’s one of my regrets – in my life, I’ve never taken part in a protest. I suppose I could do a sit-in.

Anyway, I was avoiding social media after the election because I simply cannot take any more of that goddamned fuuuugly orange mug. It makes me feel physically ill. Literally. I do stay informed, from established, trusted sources including the Seattle Times and the Washington Post, the BBC and NPR. I don’t want to see Der Pumpkinfuhrer on Facebook partly because it’s social media, where I connect with people I like, to talk about things we like and see my horoscope and pictures of llamas and other people’s sunsets and desserts and shoes I can no longer wear, but mostly because if people are going to post about the White Kanye then I’d prefer it to be from reliable sources, and I can’t take any more stupid memes and dubious news articles from the likes of Brietbart and Buzzfeed. I don’t need alternate facts when the real facts are bad enough. (You’ll notice I picked clickbait news sources from each slant of the political spectrum. I try to be fair about this stuff, and it’s too easy for any of us to go with news that reinforces how we already think rather than swallow distasteful information, no matter how accurate. This is important. I cannot stress it enough.)

My return to Facebook is possible because of this awesome Chrome extension I found that blocks our Asshole in Chief when you’re net-surfing. I know, right? Want to know how well it works? When I was previewing my last blog post prior to publishing, the sentence I wrote about Captain Chaos didn’t even show up, and I thought WordPress was wigging out, or maybe I somehow wasn’t typing it right. I typed it again. Still not there. So I disabled the blocking extension, and the sentence showed up fine. Enabled it again, and the sentence disappeared. I had to use code names (which are more fun anyway) in order to put this post together for you. And it works with pictures too, so I don’t have to look at that fucking ugly face at all.

It’s awesome!

You’re welcome.

So, yeah, I am now a toilet texter. Who’d a thunk it? With everything going on in the world, it gives me a feeling of subterfuge, like my bathroom connections are more nefarious than reading about my friend’s son’s acceptance to a nice college. I’m hunkered down, reading and tapping out replies, and it feels like they should be in code. The moral of the story is to be careful what you laugh at because you think it’s outside all realms of possibility. I mean, really. Me liking someone’s margarita while sitting on my porcelain throne and the Cheeto Jesus shredding the Constitution on what he evidently views as his own throne. What is the world coming to.

The other moral of the story is no matter what kind of shoes you wear or where you check your email, carry on.



*This post is tagged “Kim Kardashian” because, once again, I am amazed that I could miss the silly twit, and I don’t even have her blocked.

We’re Gonna Miss You, Joe

It’s been one of those days, after one of those (insomniac) nights. It’s the usual one-of-those-days stuff that happens to everybody, so I won’t splodge all over you. And I’m still pissed off at the election of Das Pumpkinfuhrer, for all the reasons everybody who is pissed is pissed, so I won’t beleaguer those. And I want to be cheered up, and I figure anyone who feels like I do about the whole thing might need to be cheered up too, and a truckload of good stuff has already been written about how all is not lost and how we, as Americans, can dust ourselves off and move forward, and I can’t even come close to what other people have already said so eloquently, so I’m not going to go into that either.

What I did do, was I collected all these awesome Obama/Biden memes from all over, because frankly, they’re the kind of thing we need right now.

And one thing to remember is that no matter how Shitstorm 2016 shook out, we’d still be missing these guys. Both of them.